Sunday, March 27, 2011

Love Thy Neighbor

By Thomas E. Brewton

It doesn't mean wife-swapping, marital infidelity, or sexual promiscuity.

In today's sermon at the Cohocton (NY) Assembly of God church, Pastor Dan Gardner's text was Roman 13:8-10:

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."  10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

This, as expressed by the Apostle Paul, is central to Jesus's message, but it's also a much older fundamental tenet of Judaism:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.   Deuteronomy 6:4

18 "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.   Leviticus 19:18

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'  31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  There is no commandment greater than these."   Mark 12:28-31

Pastor Gardner contrasted this love with the pure sentiment that predominates in today's cultural milieu.  Loving one's neighbor requires many things, notably moving from preoccupation with one's self and moving beyond personality and opinion differences.  Love in this Biblical sense is a matter of willed action.

Whatever our feelings at the moment about the misfortunes of others, we are to will ourselves to empathize with them in their times of need and to do the right thing to help them.  Sometimes this requires true forgiveness for wrongs done to us, leaving vengeance if any to the Lord.

Pastor Gardner did not extend his message into political matters.  The following observations are my own.

First, one has to look with astonishment and abhorrence at a religion like Islam, which abjures its followers to pretend friendship to non-Muslims, to lie in wait to assault them, and to kill or enslave those who fail to submit to Islam.  If there is in the Koran any parallel to the Bible's admonition to love one's neighbor, it is cancelled by Muslims' devotion to death in conquest.

Second, the commandment to love one's neighbor, as well as to have no god other than the Lord God, is incompatible with the tenets of the secular religion of liberal-progressive-socialism.  Liberal-progressive-socialists are instructed to look to the political state for their salvation and for the satisfaction of all their material desires.  Spirituality is expressly dismissed as superstitious ignorance.

Imposing one-size-fits-all socialistic programs like Obamacare over strong objections of the majority is far removed from individuals doing the right thing to love and help their neighbors.  Liberal-progressive-socialist antipathy toward individualism and "caring" for the abstract masses was captured by anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who, opposing Marxian collectivism in 1872, described what life was to be under socialism:
The government will not content itself with administering and governing the masses politically, as all governments do today.  It will administer the masses economically, concentrating in the hands of the State the production and division of wealth, the cultivation of land…All that will demand the reign of scientific intelligence, the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant, and elitist of all regimes.  There will be a new class, a new hierarchy…the world will be divided into a minority ruling in the name of knowledge, and an immense ignorant majority.  And then, woe unto the mass of ignorant ones!

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.